Player Projection: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard got a late jump on the 2005 season, but was impressive enough to put up numbers that won him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. So, how will he respond in his second season in the majors? Well, let's take a look at how it could all play out.

Ryan Howard is a monster. He's been compared to David Ortiz and the great Willie Stargell. As he strides toward the plate, you feel that he could hit a ball out of any park using a whiffle ball bat. In addition to that, his other numbers certainly didn't hurt his ride toward the Rookie of the Year honor.

A downfall? Lefties. Howard struggled against left-handed pitching last season, hitting just .148 against lefties. This spring, he'll play against all the lefties that they can get him at bats against, to see if he can turn things around. If he does, the plan to sit him against some of the tougher left-handers in the league could be completely scrapped.

Will Howard learn to hit left-handers and further improve on his impressive stats or will he suffer a letdown from his inaugural season in the majors? Odds are that he'll show at least some improvement and won't be out of the lineup very often, even when lefties are opposing the Phillies.

Here's a look at how things should look overall for Howard when the 2006 season is over.

Homeruns: Howard hit 22 homeruns in just 88 games last season as a rookie. If he were to improve his power numbers against lefties - just one homerun against southpaws - Howard could put up huge power numbers.

RBI: After driving in 63 runs last season, you have to believe that Howard has the potential to at least come close to the century mark in 2006. He should have Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell all hitting ahead of him, which would give him plenty of RBI opportunities. Of course, Pat Burrell's health could be a major storyline for Howard, since his absence could put the middle of a heavily left-handed batting order into some chaos.

Average and On-Base Percentage: Don't forget that Howard hit .288 last season and posted a .356 OBP. Those numbers include his drab numbers against left-handers. Hitting .300 isn't out of the question for Howard, although it may be a bit of a stretch. Keep in mind that if Howard had picked up just four more hits against left-handers, it would have brought his average against lefties to .197 and his overall season average to .301 on the season.

Projections for 2006

34 95 .303 140 491 86 149 28 1 0 52 149 .358

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